Battleground watch: Obama swamps McCain, strong early voting numbers

When McCain-Feingold changed the rules of campaign finance a couple of cycles ago, who would have thought that Democrats up and down the ballot would enjoy such a gigantic financial advantage by 2008? Not only is the DCCC pouring in millions in contested House races while the RNCC can barely build a tiny firewall, but the spending disparity at the presidential level keeps widening.

In the week that ended on October 7th, the Obama campaign spent $32 million, compared to $16 million for the RNC and the McCain campaign. The week before, Obama spent $20 million and the GOP spent $12.5 - so Democratic dominance is increasing. Worst still for Republicans is that the disparity is far worse than 2:1 in key battleground states, and the GOP is pouring in so much money to stay on par in some states that it is basically giving up on others.

The Fix provides the full numbers and has a a very useful chart, but here are a few observations:

  • Florida deserves a category all to itself, as the Obama campaign spent $5 million on advertising in the past week, compared to only $1.8 million for the GOP! Over the previous week, the disparity was $3 million to $600,000. The other state in which the Obama juggernaut is being felt the most is Virginia, where Obama has increased his spending to $4 million - swamping the GOP 4:1. (Note that Republicans barely increased their spending in the Old Dominion while Obama doubled it.)
  • Another state that deserves its own category is North Carolina: They went from $137,000 to $1,8 million in one week, almost tying Obama’s spending ($2.1 million)! That means the GOP is spending more in North Carolina than in any other state but Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida (it is tied with the latter).
  • Meanwhile, Obama is now truly invested in red states, spending $2 million in Indiana and $2 million in Missouri (the GOP is at $800,000 in both). In New Hampshire, Obama is outspending the GOP more than 3:1, in Nevada and New Mexico, it’s 2:1. And even in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the GOP has shifted to a superior gear ($2.6 million in PA and $3 million in OH), Obama continues to dominate ($3.8 million in PA and $4 million in OH).
  • McCain is no longer outspending Obama in Iowa and Minnesota. Obama has made a major push in both states (he was largely absent from both as of last week) and spent slightly more money in both - but the spending is roughly equal. However, McCain spent far more money in Maine, the state in which the campaign just started advertising.
  • Update: More on this in the coming days, surely, but it looks like the RNC might be pulling out of Wisconsin, leaving the McCain campaign in a precarious position in one of the last blue states they are hoping to contest.

Money alone cannot win an election, but they can seriously complicate the life of the candidate who is being swamped - particularly if he is the underdog. The Obama campaign is drowning McCain’s message in most of these states, and that makes it much more difficult for the GOP to get its attacks to stick.

Also, don’t forget that a lot of the GOP’s spending comes in the form of the strange RNC/McCain expenditures (forcing half of the ad to be devoted to hitting “congressional liberals” rather than Obama, as I explained here) and that yet more RNC money is spent by the independent expenditure arm so that the McCain campaign cannot control the message. $1 spent by Obama is not equal to $1 spent by the GOP, so the financial disparity is even wider than these numbers indicate.

Early voting: The latest numbers out of Georgia confirm that early voting is attracting a lot of voters. More than 540,000 voters had cast a ballot as of the end of Tuesday, 37% of which were black. 29% of the state population (and 25% of the 2004 electorate) are African-American, so it is remarkable to see that black voters are keeping up their increased participation rate. The Atlanta Journal Constitution confirms that black voters are highly motivated by spending two hours observing the procedures in Cobb County: it was a 90-minute line (yes, three weeks before Election Day), and everyone who entered the line before giving up was white!

The share of the white vote in Election Day voting is bound to be higher, but black voters do not need to sustain their 37% voting for Democrats to have a good day. Anything north of 30% would certainly be a huge boost for Barack Obama and Jim Martin’s prospects (Georgia polls usually model 26% black turnout). Meanwhile, early voting is going strong in Indiana. While the raw numbers might not seem that stunning (3,000 in Indianapolis’s Marion County for now), Indiana early voting started two weeks after it was launched in Georgia and election officials emphasize how remarkable the turnout rate has been up until now.

As for Florida, the state GOP continues to be remarkably disorganized - and the Miami Herald confirms that the prevailing feeling among Florida Republicans is panic and disorganization. It is not hard to see why: the McCain campaign long neglected the Sunshine State, and their organizational efforts are now lagging behind - not to mention their candidate’s presence on the airwaves. But the article also contains a piece of good news for Republicans, who outnumber Democrats by 200,000 among voters who have requested an absentee ballot. (Florida overall has more Democrats than Republicans.) This is not surprising, since the GOP always puts more emphasis on absentee voting and Democrats are focusing on early voting; but it is reassuring for Republicans to see that their ground game has not collapsed.

4 Responses to “Battleground watch: Obama swamps McCain, strong early voting numbers”


  1. 1 Tatiana

    There’s been so much talk about Obama’s ground game that it can’t not disappoint. Republicans had organized unnoticed in 2004, Kerry folks didn’t see it coming and we know what happened. Not saying that McCain’s going to be as strong as Bush but I don’t think the gap in ground game will be THAT huge.

  2. 2 Mike

    Tatiana - I understand your point but remember Obama’s ground game is vastly superior to Kerry’s whilst McCain is not as good as Bush’s. 2004 was a tight race (2% result) so the differences in ground game alone could easily make that difference up even before you get to other issues like right/wrong direction, unpopular incumbent etc etc.

    McCain neglected IN, NC, VA and FL for far too long. His first visit to North Carolina was last week - come on. NC has been a tight race since late August/early September and he come 5-6 weeks later!

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